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Our First Sonoma Experience

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t says:  g and I happened to be meeting a wonderful winemaker in Napa (lunch at Mustard’s Grill!), when we got back into the car and pondered, “where to next?”.  Having just done a trip to Heitz on our previous visit, we wondered whether other free [good] visits could be had.  One name came to mind: Merry Edwards.  This pinot/chardonnay/SB powerhouse has been making great wine in Sonoma for some time, now … and they, like Heitz, are one of the few top caliber wineries to still give free tastings!  … appointment-free!!

So g and I toughed it through the windy roads of the mountains/hills that lay between Napa and Sonoma.  It was surreal to be seeing such fabulous views from our own tiny little C30 that we owned in Philly for all those years …  And then we finally arrived:

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Trust me, I tried my best to take pictures inside, but I couldn’t find a way to do it and not look like the other four tourists taking selfies.  I was embarassed.  (Or maybe I was just embarassing g?)  So I guess my words will have to paint the picture.  Merry Edwards has a cute little courtyard area, complete with a fountain or two.  You walk into a main reception area where you can “sign up” for a tasting.  There are 2-3 rotating tasting rooms for walk-ins that rotate in terms of which one is “going off” when.  It’s kind of like getting in line for go-kart riding at an amusement park: everyone lines up, then the first 10 or so people all get into the first set of cars and go; and then the next 10 get into the second wave, etc.  Each room opens up as soon as it’s done and then the next group goes.  I found it to be a great way to deal with an onslaught of people all at once – instead of having just a single bar, where employees have to remember which wine they’re pouring for whom, they basically invite a group of people into a closed off room with a separate bar and do a single [standing] tasting with a whole group at once (~15-min).  This way everyone gets to hear everything about the vineyard history and a tidbit about each wine, and we’re all on the same page.  Pretty cool setup!  It’s like having two-to-three revolving bars!  And by “group”, I have to admit that it can be quite small – we had only one other couple in our group, but they could have easily have accommodated more if needed.  They also offer a [free!] seated tasting that included some chardonnay, but that required an appointment; ours was four pinots and a SB.  The pinots were a great study in California pinot noir, each one with different kinds of fruit and savory flavors.  I will warn you, however, that the pinots tend to be quite spendy (~$50-$60/bottle), and I wasn’t quite moved enough by any of them to open my wallet (in my book a $50 wine better at least take my breath away).  The SB, however, was quite remarkable, reminding us of a baby Illumination … with a pricepoint to match (~$32).  And unlike most wines found at wineries, it’s actually harder to find this wine on the retail market for cheaper than at the tasting room, so I could buy with a clear conscience.  While not as petrol-driven, smack-you-in-the-face as Heitz’s SB (this one had a dollop of vanilla oak and a smidge more stone fruit like peach instead of the petrol in Heitz’s), it was a very nice showing, working well with the Dungeness crab g and I just cooked up at home …  Ahhhh – California life is just too hard – wine and crabs in November?  C’est la vie!

We did walk around Sebastapol’s The Barlow as well, an area with some tasting rooms (including Kosta Browne and Wind Gap!), restaurants, and other tchotchke-vendors.  It was quite cute.  This was our first trip to Sonoma, and it’s laid the groundwork for future visits.  Just try and keep us away!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 December 2016 at 11:40am

Posted in Happenings

grocery store chardonnay showdown

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t says:  It’s no secret that g and I dislike chardonnay in general.  Sure, there are some examples of chardonnay out there we do like, like Matthiasson’s, or a few Chablis (not universal).  We used to think we were crazy, because everybody loves chardonnay; now we know we’re crazy, but that doesn’t solve the whole chardonnay discordance …  This presents a problem for going to “pick up a quick bottle of wine”.  In general, this means that we’re going to a party, and in general, people expect and like chardonnay.  Liquor and grocery stores know this, with an expansive collection of bottles, but how do we know which one to pick?  Fortunately, RJ to the rescue:

http://www.rjonwine.com/california-wine/grocery-store-chardonnay-project/

Written by afterdinnersneeze

3 March 2016 at 11:46am

Posted in Happenings

Storming Bernal Heights Hill

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t says:  What do San Franciscans do on the weekend?  It seems that they like to go “hiking”.  Now, because g and I are new to the area, we needed a “warm-up” hike – you know, something in the city, something easy to climb, something easy to get an Uber from should we fail … Fortunately, we had experienced hikers k and cm show us how it’s done …

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Step 1 is to have a hearty breakfast.  While maybe not as unctuous as a patented a-breakfast-sandwich (bagel, pork x2, runny egg, blue cheese), this one, crafted by cm embodies the one undeniable fact: we’re in California now!  That means a thin cream cheese layer, pickled red onions, cut tomatoes, and some smoked fish with a side of an egg scramble.  With our bellies pleasantly full, we were ready to conquer Bernal Heights Hill …

 

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On the way to the hill (or maybe it was on the way down from the hill) we stopped by some cute stores, which in typical cute-store fashion, were selling over-priced Korean crap.  We’ll wait until we hit a real Korean grocery for our gochujang, thank you very much.

 

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We did see a sign outside one deli advertising something to the extent of “PB&J made by a robot!”.  We went inside to check it out and we found that this contraption, for $2, would assemble a PB&J sandwich, right before your very eyes!  It reminded me of something we might see in Japan or something (not that I have ever been to Japan).  We did like how there was a nutella option, as well as four different kinds of jam.  I can’t imagine the sandwich was THAT delicious, but it was pretty fun to watch!

 

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We did it!  Bernal Heights Hill!  It was actually pretty hard to capture just how impressive of a hill it was, so we apologize to the Hill that this doesn’t look like much. 

Now that our first hill has been conquered we’re looking forward to developing our hill-climbing muscles so we can take on the bigger, badder sites throughout Cali.  Who knows where we’ll wind up next?

Written by afterdinnersneeze

18 January 2016 at 12:38am

Posted in Happenings

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long-distance blind-tasting!

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t says:  Not satisfied with letting distance come between our fun, a, v, g, and I got together on FaceTime for a “long distance blind wine tasting”*.  While not officially a “restaurant visit in SF”, we had so much fun I just had to write about it!  g whipped up her pasta-a-la-g, which was delicious as usual.  Meanwhile, a and I uncorked the wine-of-the-night and got to blind-tasting …

a sensed some “wet laundry” on the nose – I can’t say I could confirm that.  It did smell a little “wet” but more like forest floor moss than wet laundry (which in my mind smells kind of gross).  Nitpicky scents aside, the major nose element for me was more like a raspberry fruit roll-up.  On the palate, it was plush and smooth, with flavors of red and black berries, maybe even a little “plummy”.  But then on the moderate length finish, there was a nice spicy quality.  It tried to straddle between being a “t-wine” (plush and round) and a “v-wine” (spicy, leather, manly).  However, it wasn’t quite an “a-wine” – he’d prefer a little more tannin, a little more kick in the tongue.  a guessed “New World, Kitchen Sink Blend, America”.  I agreed with the new world style, but felt that the spicy finish just wasn’t right for an American Kitchen Sink blend (i.e. usually zinfandel, petit verdot, syrah, cab franc – grapes that are “left over” in California).  So I went for “new world Spain”, but for the life of me couldn’t think of any Tempranillo-based wine coming out so smooth on entry.  a adjusted his response to include “new world South America”.  We then did the big reveal:

 

2012 Bodega O. Fournier “Urban Uco” Malbec-Tempranillo Blend

Holy cow!  If you put all our guesses together, we kind of guessed it!  It’s a South American wine (Argentina), a new world blend of malbec (which is known for being fruity and very plush) and tempranillo (known for being a bit more “masculine” flavor profile with leather, tobacco, and spice).  And that’s exactly how it tasted – malbec up front, tempranillo on the finish.  We’re calling our guesses to be pretty spot-on!  What we didn’t appreciate at the time was that this wine was under $10!  Not bad!  If you see this on a shelf, go for it!  I imagine the production is large enough where it shouldn’t vary that much year-to-year, so I doubt vintage will change it THAT much.  Go ahead and compare it to 100% malbec bottle and a 100% tempranillo bottle.  It’s fun!

*”long distance blind wine tasting”:  Weird, right?  Before we came to SF, we made it so that the PHL crew (a + v) and the SFO crew (g + t) had the same six bottles of wine (range: $9-$29), fully wrapped and numbered, in a manner such that bottle #1 in PHL corresponded with bottle #1 in SFO.  However, the buyer (t) and the wrapper (g) were not in communication, and the buyer also has a terrible memory (having purchased a bunch of wines all at once), so the end result is that no one (neither g, t, a, nor v) has any idea of the identities of the wines aside from the numbers 1-6 emblazoned on each bottle.  When the time comes, a number is randomly selected, a corresponding bottle is opened simultaneously in Philly and SF, the wine is blind-tasted (bottles still wrapped), opinions recorded, and then there’s a “big reveal”!  Fun, right!  Someone should totally make a wine club like this!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

9 January 2016 at 3:32pm

Posted in Happenings

a word on wine reviews

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t says:  As a wine-snob-wannabe, I’ve done a lot of wine-studying, wine-browsing, wine-tasting, and wine-philosophizing.  Be that as it may, the challenge of “oh, just go and pick out a wine for dinner” is still not easy.  I like to walk up and down every aisle, peering at labels, reading shelf-talkers, pulling up cellartracker reviews and hemming/hawing over what it “might” taste like.  It’s a complicated wine world out there, with a lot of “opinions” floating around.  Who do you trust?  Here’s a good post on the topic, written by who I think is one of the most trustworthy critics out there, Jancis Robinson:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/9de45762-5230-11e5-b029-b9d50a74fd14.html

Written by afterdinnersneeze

7 September 2015 at 7:33pm

Posted in Happenings

McMuffin or Biscuit?

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t says: So it turns out MacDonald’s might be serving breakfast throughout the day.

http://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/its-official-mcdonalds-confirms-all-day-night-breakfast-n419826?cid=sm_fb

That rocks, because I’d always preferred their breakfast options to the rest.  I have fond memories of sitting in the car after swim practice, with the scent of chlorine in the air, grasping those bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuits with my pruned fingers, trying to prevent the inevitable self-destruct sequence that the biscuits go through the second you take your first bite. It was during the “2-for-$2” campaign (that’s right!  $2!!  That’s like back when gas was < $1/gallon!), and life was good.  I have ended the lives of many-a-biscuit.  Actually, I’ve eaten so much MacDonald’s (breakfast and not) during my childhood that not a day goes by where I don’t thank my genetics for seemingly preventing any obvious untoward health effects.  While it’s highly unlikely that I’d eat at MacDonald’s with any real frequency today (seriously – I probably had it in an airport once a year ago), I do like knowing that a greasy, stomach-filling sandwich can be had at any time of day.

But if you read the headline, it seems that there will be a split – some places offering biscuits, and some McMuffins.  This is a classic g versus t debate.  g sides with the McMuffin – feeling that the biscuits are too greasy, and the muffin more resembles a food that she would actually enjoy eating on the day-to-day.  My side: that’s the point!  It’s hedonistic, it’s daring (I mean, it’s obviously so bad for you that you should get a blue ribbon just for surviving!).  It’s a special occasion food!  Like eating a slab of pork belly or foie (that’s right: MacDonald’s biscuit = crumbly foie).  Live a little! (just not too much).

So I wonder what we’ll see at our local Mickey-D’s.  We’ll check it out once … for the sake of the blog …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

1 September 2015 at 9:23pm

Posted in Happenings

With a Heavy Heart …

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t says:  Every now and then you hear about something devastating and have a severe negative reaction: sadness, anger, regret.  These emotions are often appropriate, following things like national/international tragedies, losses of family, etc.  But every now and then, they sneak up and ninja you at times you didn’t expect.  For example – it’s like when you trade in your first car – I mean who cares – it’s just a car!  It didn’t matter yesterday, when you used your foot to kick your door closed because your hands were full.  And you were so excited today, when you bought a new car!  But I’ll never forget the few seconds of remorse that flashed into my mind as we left the dealer, never to see our trusty ‘ol red-orange-burgundy-colored S40 behind ever again [even though we were driving away in a newer, better car!].  Sometimes I still look for her …

Well, today is one of those days:

Pig BYOB extraordinaire, Cochon, has closed.

For those that don’t know, Cochon was the classic “Philly BYO” in the truest sense.  It was small.  It was homely.  Chef cooked spendidly, but stayed out of the spotlight.  Prices were incredibly reasonable, often in the low-20’s.  Portions were incredible.  You always felt like you were “getting away with something” when you ate there – like how could it be that you had such a great meal without spending $50 per head?!

That said, I recognize that g and I haven’t been to Cochon in years – 2013 according to our blog.  Of course, we still recommended it to everyone, but we just hadn’t made it there ourselves.  I guess we, like the rest of Philly, forgot about it.  Damn.  Had we lost our way?  Maybe we got caught up in things like “craft cocktails”, “beer gardens”, and “tasting menus”.  We sought out the hot new restaurants with narrow niches, like Pho and “plant-based” cuisine.  “Interesting wine lists” made us tolerate the non-BYO-tariff.  “Celebrity chefs” came from New York and/or television cooking shows.  Meanwhile, the Solomonov, Vetri, and 13th Street empires continue to grow, proving that success-begets-success.  The Philly dining scene has certainly lost its Scrappy-Doo attitude, nowadays far closer in resemblance to Fred[dy Prinze Junior].

So let’s to take a moment to reflect on the Cochon:
It all started in 2009 for us.  (Cochon apparently opened in 2007, though).
There were pork shoulders and tenderloins and everything inbetween (want “the fish?” or “the duck?” – it probably had pork in it).
But of course, the memories that will get me just a little choked up will be those of the BRUNCH:
The Elvis French Toast and Those One-Inch-Thick Pancakes (sometimes with chocolate!)

So yes, we at adsz will mourne the loss of Cochon.  While I am sad they didn’t have a celebratory “Cochon is closing week!” where undoubtedly the adsz would have dropped everything to attend one last hurrah – perhaps it is better this way, leaving us with the fond memories of dining with mimosas/wine in hand, raising a glass to how lucky we were be together, eating [there].

Written by afterdinnersneeze

4 August 2015 at 2:10pm

Posted in Happenings

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